Plac­ing your fam­ily us­ing his­toric maps helps you un­der­stand their lives bet­ter and may break down those tricky brick walls says An­thony Adolph

Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine - - CONTENTS -

Over 30,000 years ago, near Pavlov in Mo­ravia, one of our Ice Age an­ces­tors took a piece of mam­moth tusk and scratched on it a se­ries of sym­bols – jagged lines for moun­tains, the wig­gling course of a river and a se­ries of rings.

It is prob­a­bly the old­est map in the world, and it works, be­cause the land­scape de­picted matches the one in which it was found and the rings cor­re­spond well to known camp sites from the time when it was made.

The pur­pose of this, and most later maps, was to stop peo­ple get­ting lost. And, just as they work well for peo­ple trav­el­ling on the ground, they are also es­sen­tial for us time-trav­ellers, as a means of stop­ping us from get­ting lost as we delve back into the past to try to track down our an­ces­tors.

Sto­ries of jour­neys

For a start, maps are use­ful for work­ing out how places men­tioned in fam­ily mem­o­ries, and in doc­u­ments re­lat­ing to your an­ces­tors, fit to­gether. A fam­ily tree stretch­ing back only a few gen­er­a­tions is likely to con­tain quite a num­ber of place names, and it’s es­sen­tial to un­der­stand how th­ese fit to­gether. Are all the places men­tioned very close to­gether, for

in­stance, or do they fall into groups, start­ing in one part of the coun­try, then jump­ing sud­denly to an­other? If they fall into sev­eral groups, do they make sense by re­veal­ing jour­neys, of agri­cul­tural an­ces­tors mi­grat­ing into industrial cities, per­haps, fol­lowed by their more pros­per­ous descen­dants mov­ing out into that city’s leafier sub­urbs? Or do they per­haps re­veal how a nau­ti­cal fam­ily started in a fish­ing har­bour in Corn­wall and then mi­grated along the coast to the Cinq Ports of Kent and ended up, via a so­journ in Great Yar­mouth, in the industrial port of New­cas­tle upon Tyne?

By un­der­stand­ing how a fam­ily tree works on a map, you can re­veal sto­ries of jour­neys which may oth­er­wise have re­mained hid­den which in turn make sense of those gen­er­a­tions. You might also dis­cover that what looks like a jour­ney was noth­ing of the sort. Some­times, you’ll find two or three place names men­tioned on a fam­ily tree, sug­gest­ing a lot of move­ment, but when you study a map you will find th­ese places were vir­tu­ally on top of each other. Your an­ces­tor may have re­mained in ex­actly the same cottage, but went to church over there, was enu­mer­ated in the cen­sus un­der that town­ship there, yet was reg­is­tered un­der the parish over the hill un­der whose ju­ris­dic­tion his home fell.

Maps help re­veal not just what hap­pened, but why. They might show that your kin moved from this vil­lage to that town specif­i­cally be­cause it was the clos­est industrial area. Al­ter­na­tively, there may have been a di­rect road, river, canal or rail­way lead­ing straight to it, mak­ing it the most ob­vi­ous route to take. Equally, David Hey wrote per­sua­sively in Jour­neys in Fam­ily

His­to­ryy about the ex­tra­or­di­nary pull of the mar­ket town in pre-industrial so­ci­ety. Each one was ef­fec­tively a sun amidst its mini so­lar sys­tem of vil­lages, and most move­ment within the lo­cal­ity was not ran­domly from vil­lage to vil­lage, but into the mar­ket town and then out to an­other satel­lite vil­lage. For it was in the mar­ket town that ser­vants and labour­ers were hired, that girls met boys and new leases of farm land were ad­ver­tised and taken up.

Pre­dict­ing the past

Just as maps ex­plain what was go­ing on in the sec­tions of fam­ily tree you have al­ready traced, they can also be in­cred­i­bly use­ful, es­pe­cially when com­bined with read­ing about lo­cal and so­cial his­tory, in help­ing pre­dict where ear­lier gen­er­a­tions are likely to have come from. Ru­ral an­ces­tors prob­a­bly came, more likely than not, from one of the other vil­lages in the or­bit of the same mar­ket town in which their descen­dants lived, but not nec­es­sar­ily one of the ad­ja­cent vil­lages – as David Hey showed – their ori­gins could lie in one the same dis­tance out of the mar­ket town in the other di­rec­tion. Fam­i­lies in industrial cities may have come from other conur­ba­tions where sim­i­lar trades were fol­lowed, or di­rect from the city’s hin­ter­land, prob­a­bly fol­low­ing the trans­port links which ex­isted at the time. This is where old maps re­ally come into their own and time spent por­ing over th­ese will never be wasted, as you will be­come ever more familiar with how thing were in your an­ces­tors’ day.

A sense of place

You may, for ex­am­ple, have two pos­si­ble bap­tisms for your an­ces­tor, found in

Know­ing where peo­ple lived makes an im­mense dif­fer­ence to your re­search

fam­il­y­ Ex­am­i­na­tion of mod­ern maps shows that one church is much closer than the other to where you know the fam­ily lived and there are di­rect trans­port links to both. How­ever, a map from the rel­e­vant pe­riod may show the rail­way that now goes to that closer place ar­rived 50 years af­ter the bap­tism there, whereas at the time a straight Ro­man road ran di­rect to the place fur­ther away – mak­ing that far­thest place the one best ex­plored first.

Some­times, know­ing where peo­ple lived makes an im­mense dif­fer­ence to how we think about and re­search our an­ces­tors. Scot­land is a good ex­am­ple, where try­ing to trace fam­ily trees with­out maps and a ba­sic un­der­stand­ing of the coun­try is al­most a waste of time. High­land fam­i­lies lived un­der the clan sys­tem, or its ves­tiges, tak­ing up ten­an­cies from the clan chief; or be­ing ‘cleared’ in the late 18th or early 19th cen­turies to un­prof­itable land on the chiefs’ es­tates. They may have left al­to­gether to go to the near­est industrial city in the Cen­tral Belt, or even em­i­grated. Low­lan­ders gen­er­ally or­bited around mar­ket towns with their hir­ing fairs, or clus­tered into the industrial towns. Yet those who lived in the burghs, wher­ever they were, led quite dif­fer­ent lives which can be traced through burgh records. If they moved at all, it was gen­er­ally from one burgh to an­other.

Town and cities

Be­sides old and mod­ern maps made to stop trav­ellers get­ting lost, there are also many spe­cial­ist maps pro­duced for spe­cific pur­poses which we can use in trac­ing our fam­ily trees. They can be found in lo­cal ar­chives, li­braries, county record of­fices and the na­tional ar­chives of Eng­land and Wales (at Kew), Scot­land (in Ed­in­burgh), North­ern Ire­land (in Belfast) and Eire (in Dublin), as well as the Na­tional Li­brary of

In the coun­try­side, es­tate maps started to be drawn up in the late 16th cen­tury

Wales (in Aberys­t­wyth), not to men­tion the Bri­tish Li­brary in Lon­don.

There will of­ten be plans of towns and cities dat­ing back sur­pris­ingly far, or re­con­struc­tions of them – the late Bill Urry’s Can­ter­bury Un­der the Angevin

Kings con­tains(1967), for in­stance, sin­cred­i­bly de­tailed maps of the town show­ing specif­i­cally who lived in which house at cer­tain points in the Mid­dle Ages. In the Bri­tish Li­brary and Guild­hall Li­brary in Lon­don are 18th and 19th cen­tury fire in­sur­ance plans, cov­er­ing many towns around Bri­tain, which in­clude de­tails of ma­te­ri­als used to build the house con­cerned, how many storeys it had, and some­times even names of the house­hold­ers. Prock­ter and Tay­lor’s The A-Z of El­iz­a­bethan Lon­don (pub­lished by Harry Mar­gary, a pro­lific re­pro­ducer of old maps, in as­so­ci­a­tion with Guild­hall Li­brary, 1979) re­pro­duces maps so de­tailed that you can al­most peer through your an­ces­tors’ win­dows and see them still living in­side.

For some cities there are maps pro­duced in the 19th and early 20th cen­turies which chart and study poverty. The most fa­mous are the Maps De­scrip­tive of Lon­don Poverty pro­duced in 1903 by Charles Booth and fea­tured in last month’s is­sue of the mag­a­zine. Ev­ery Lon­don street was colour-coded from black to yel­low, rang­ing from ‘Up­per-mid­dle and Up­per classes. Wealthy’, down through ‘very poor, ca­sual. Chronic want’, to ‘ low­est class, vi­cious, semi-crim­i­nal’. Th­ese maps are at the Lon­don School of Eco­nomics and search­able via the Charles Booth On­line Ar­chive at

Head­ing for the coun­try

In the coun­try­side, es­tate maps started to be drawn in the late 16th cen­tury, of­ten show­ing and nam­ing fields, woods and build­ings with pre­cise acreage and in­clud­ing the names of neigh­bour­ing landown­ers.

They of­ten ac­com­pa­nied rent rolls or rentals nam­ing the ten­ants, and are es­pe­cially use­ful when a se­ries ex­ists over a pe­riod of time, al­low­ing you to trace the suc­ces­sion of gen­er­a­tions hold­ing the same house or field. Ir­ish and Scot­tish es­tate records are par­tic­u­larly use­ful when they pre­date sur­viv­ing parish reg­is­ters. Most re­main in pri­vate mu­ni­ment rooms or so­lic­i­tors’ of­fices, but there are plenty in na­tional and county record of­fices, usu­ally cat­a­logued un­der the es­tate own­ers’ name.

The tithe ap­por­tion­ment maps cover roughly three quar­ters of the English and Welsh parishes be­tween 1838 and 1854. Their pur­pose was to reg­u­larise the pay­ment of tithes, and they show and num­ber each field and build­ing. The num­bers re­fer to cor­re­spond­ing tithe sched­ule books, which de­scribe the land and its rentable value, and show names of own­ers and oc­cu­piers, pro­vid­ing you with a fine writ­ten and graphic de­scrip­tion of where your an­ces­tors were living. Copies are at county record of­fices and also at The Na­tional Ar­chives ( TNA) in classes IR 29 (sched­ules) and IR 30 (maps). Some county col­lec­tions have been digitised (for ex­am­ple, Devon, Corn­wall, Cheshire and Leeds) or are in the process of be­ing digitised so it’s worth en­quir­ing about th­ese at the rel­e­vant county record of­fice. The col­lec­tion at TNA is cur­rently be­ing digitised by The Ge­neal­o­gist where the sched­ules can al­ready be ac­cessed with maps be­ing added in 2015. The new

Welsh project Cynefin ( aims to digi­tise more than 1,100 Welsh tithe maps and link them to the rel­e­vant ap­por­tion­ment doc­u­ment.

Many landown­ers did away with the me­dieval open field sys­tem and its as­so­ci­ated small­hold­ings and com­mons, and re­al­lo­cated the land as hedged fields or cre­ated el­e­gant deer parks or land­scaped gar­dens. This process of ‘En­clo­sure’, as it was termed, gen­er­ated de­tailed maps.

Dat­ing from the 17th cen­tury on­wards, the maps and as­so­ci­ated en­clo­sure awards, de­tail­ing which land­hold­ers were al­lo­cated what, can be found at county record of­fices and TNA while those car­ried out by Act of Par­lia­ment are at the House of Lords Record Of­fice.

The Emer­ald Isle

Amongst Ire­land’s most use­ful maps are those ac­com­pa­ny­ing Sir Richard Grif­fith’s Pri­mary Val­u­a­tion of Ire­land (1831-1864). The orig­i­nal records are in The Na­tional Li­brary of Ire­land and are now on­line. They have re­cently been added to Find­my­past, but I use the ver­sion on ask­aboutire­ which links the re­sults of Griffiths’ sur­vey of all house­hold­ers, how­ever small and poor, with Google Maps and Grif­fith’s own maps, on which the plot num­bers re­late to those in the writ­ten records. You can dis­cover what land your fam­ily ten­anted in the mid-19th cen­tury and see ex­actly where this land was on a con­tem­po­rary map.

Also es­sen­tial for Ir­ish re­search are the parish maps in James G Ryan’s Ir­ish Records: Sources for Fam­ily and Lo­cal His­tory (1997 and later re­prints) whichh show the lay­out of the parishes within the coun­ties, ac­com­pa­nied by lists of avail­able reg­is­ters for the dif­fer­ent de­nom­i­na­tions.

Also use­ful are the sur­name-dis­tri­bu­tion maps in the var­i­ous edi­tions of Ed­ward MacLysaght’s Ir­ish Fam­i­lies, which pretty much tell you where an­ces­tors of a cer­tain sur­name are likely to be found.

Not lost at all

The more you look, the more maps you will find. The more you study th­ese and read about the ar­eas where your an­ces­tors lived, the bet­ter you will come to un­der­stand them, and how you came to be who you are now: and you will also grow much can­nier at fath­om­ing out where they came from! An­thony Adolph is a pro­fes­sional ge­neal­o­gist and the au­thor of Trac­ing Your Fam­ily His­tory (Collins) and Trac­ing Your

Aris­to­cratic An­ces­tors (Pen & Sword).

Mar­ket towns ex­erted an ex­tra­or­di­nary pull on work­ers in pre-industrial so­ci­ety

A 19th cen­tury fire in­sur­ance plan of Chelms­ford from the col­lec­tion at the Bri­tish Li­brary

This map of Water­ford ac­com­pa­nies Grif­fith’s Pri­mary Val­u­a­tion of Ire­land (1831-1864)

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.